So you want to open a sports shop?

Paul Sherratt of Solutions for Sport takes a closer look at the pitfalls facing any new entrants into sports retail.

The future

As the cycle begins again and the sales meetings and trade shows come round I find myself on the road again visiting sports shops throughout the UK & Ireland and pondering what does the future hold for our industry?.

I’ve said many times before in this column that things are changing faster than they have ever done – the bigger are getting bigger, the specialists in many areas are doing well but the “all things to all people” stores are slowly dying – and I seem to be faced more and more with sports shops who are getting further and further away from what consumers except to find on the High Street.

Poor shop fronts, merchandising, point of sale, signage, ranges and more leave many of our sports stores seemingly stuck in the 1980’s, or best the 1990’s!

Of course, its not true for all, but I began to ask myself what does it take to open a sports shop in the UK & Ireland in 2015, what mistakes should one avoid and what best practice can be employed.

At first site there are a number of core areas to consider

Will you be online, bricks and mortar or both?

Understand that if you are launching a transactional website that this needs to be treated the same as if you were opening a physical store.

Time and time again I see retailers investing in websites only to be disappointed with the results when it is complete. The analogy is simple – you can build the best online store in the world with the best product range and prices but if you don’t know how to run it or don’t drive traffic to it it is the equivalent of opening a sports shop if the middle of a field. No one will visit, No one will buy and you will have no business.

Likewise if you are opening a store consider the area. Where is it. What are the local sporting amenities like?

Will you specialise? If so which sport(s)

Its clear the in the past few years the sports retailers that have specialised seem to be generating strong revenues.

Sports such as running, triathlon and cycling have all seen steady growth and sports participation trends seem to indicate a shift from traditional team sports to more individual sports.

Prospective sports retailers could do well to take note of these trends and establish where the future lies, whether there is still some growth opportunities or whether there is a new trend just around the corner.

Don’t underestimate the power of the multiple.

If you have a sports multiple on your doorstep look for a point of difference – alternative brands and different product ranges are a starting point. You will always find it difficult to compete on price and therefore don’t be tempted to go head to head – you will never win.

Instead focus on service and breadth of range and look to build a loyal customer base based on these stronger business development principals.

Consider a buying group?

As the industry consolidates so too do the buying groups. With STAG and Intersport now the only remaining UK & Ireland buying groups any new sports retailer has a clear choice.

Both offer support to in a variety of areas from preferential credit card rates through to merchandising and more.

Yes they have selective criteria for new members and both will consider the financial robustness of your business – admittedly if you are a start up this is something that is difficult to gauge if – however both buying groups will also happily engage in dialogue and may well provide invaluable advice.

Do you have links into local community?

If you are considering opening a high street store then consider closely where your audience are.

If you are providing a specialist offer then make sure that you have, or can create, close links with that specialist community i.e. if you are a racket specialist engage the local tennis, squash and badminton clubs or as a running store link into local running clubs.

These consumers will be the back bone of your local support.


Consider your specialist sports store as the artisan butcher or baker. If you can provide great product ranges and superb service then price becomes less of an issue.

Go that extra mile.

What else can you bring in to encourage the consumer?

Perhaps something to test the product such as a treadmill or gait analysis machine, or an added value investment such as a stringing and printing machine etc.

The more you can offer and the stronger the point of difference the more successful you will be.

How will you merchandise

Todays successful Hight Street stores focus on directing the consumer to core store areas and into core products.

Clever use of shop fittings, signage and point of sale is the key to this – look at some of your own favourite stores and try and apply the same rules.

Make sure you keep things clean. Less is more. Give the consumer clear sign posts as to what you are what you sell and what areas of the shop cater for

How will you connect? Social Media? Website -eCommerce or not

Multiple touch points are key. You customer will expect to find you online so you need to consider a website (transactional or not), your social media presence, local sponsorship/activity, perhaps even local press or radio.

The more relevant touch points you have the more successful you will be.

Use as many resources as you can to research the market.

Read the trade magazines, go to the trade shows, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone – you’d be amazed how much advise you can glean from such activity.

Don’t give up.

Do I believe that opening a new sports store in 2015 is viable? – theres no doubt that there still opportunities out there both and and off line, however the days of the slightly disorganised, old fashion, small and dark sports shop is over.

The modern day consumer expects an environment where they can interact and connect with the retailer and his product range.

He or she does not want to be wading through rows and rows of apparel on clothing rails and to unsure which area of the shop they can find what they are looking for.

Less is more is undoubtedly the current trend and if any new entrants into our industry (or any existing ones for that matter) can embrace this then there may well be a sounds future for them in the sports trade.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *